Dementia and Imagination participated in this year’s Connected Communities festival 2015 with three exciting and tailored events in Manchester, Newcastle and Ruthin. 

Each event engaged with a slightly different audience that included artists, care home staff, NHS staff and representatives of charities and organisations interested in dementia. Each day looked to share some of Dementia and Imagination’s story so far and brought together our artists and arts partners alongside the researchers to present a mixture of workshop, discussion, networking and information sharing.  

In Denbighshire the inspiring setting of Ruthin Craft Centre provided a thought provoking venue for the day with over 50 individuals brought together. Presentations by members of the research team (Dr Gill Windle and Dr Catrin Hedd Jones) gave an overview of the research before Sian Fitzgerald (Arts Officer for Denbighshire County Council) provided a summary of the Lost in Art projects to date and their involvement in the research.

Dr Gill Windle introduces the Dementia and Imagination Connected Communities event

Introduction to the day

The day was a real opportunity to share experience and knowledge amongst those supporting people living with dementia in their communities. The first session focussed on sharing knowledge about existing projects with other members of the group. We were also privileged to be joined by some of our participants and their relatives from our research interventions. They spoke with small groups of delegates about their experience of taking part in art sessions and the research, to offer their own personal and first-hand insights.

After lunch in the sunshine the artists had transformed the room and delegates were given a first-hand experience of what a Dementia and Imagination art session is like. The group headed over to the gallery split into two smaller groups to look at two different exhibitions. This section was led by artists Sian Hughes and Tara Dean, both having worked on the Dementia and Imagination study and also having worked with Denbighshire’s Lost in Art programme participants. Siân focussed on an exhibit by Fritz Maierhofer which featured a collection of jewellery whilst Tara took Dail Behennah’s exhibition ‘Fieldwork – new work in willow and other materials’.

Dail Behennah's exhibition - which inspired Tara's process

Dail Behennah`s exhibition - which inspired Tara`s process

The groups then went back to the workroom to have a go at two different processes. Sian led one group, using plaster of Paris and marbling, whilst Tara explored form, mark making and shape using a mixture of natural objects and materials such as card, clay and polystyrene circular bases. After initial caution, with a lot of quiet and focussed attention, by the end of the session there had been a lot of laughter.

A plaster of Paris mould dipped into marbling ink
Experimenting with shape and materials

A Plaster of Paris mould dipped into marbling ink & Experimenting with shape and materials 

The final session turned attention towards areas where delegates felt there were currently gaps in knowledge or provision to inspire future sharing. Delegates had been invited to bring along leaflets and information about current initiatives to share and were also invited to receive a free resource packs from a Cognitive Stimulation trial that has been developed at the Dementia Services Development Centre at Bangor University. 

A host of information was available about the study and other projects in the area

A host of information was available about the study and other projects in the area

The end of the day was not the end of the work! We’ve been busy compiling all the information about projects in the area collected from the day. This amounted to some 50 projects or activities taking place in the North Wales area. This information has now been shared amongst our delegates. We’ve also been looking at the feedback from the day which was very positive, including requests for similar events in the near future and hearing about the outcomes of the research. There was also a lot of feeling that opportunities to come together provide inspiration and enthusiasm for working with people living with dementia in the community and a sense that a network of contacts across different sectors could be beneficial.

“A fun and enjoyable day. Lots of ideas and inspiration”

“Today was not what I imagined and I enjoyed it very much. Thank you”

“Many thanks for a very informative day & chance to learn so much about variety of services & support available…Great variety of service providers available”

(Comments from delegate’s feedback).

The format was very successful and we are now looking towards hosting similar events once the research data has been analysed and we have our results to share.

We also carried out a slightly more thought-provoking feedback method asking delegates to fill in two postcards at the beginning and end of the day responding to two statements: ‘Dementia is…’ and ‘Art can…’.

Postcard feedback from the beginning of the day
Postcard feedback from the end of the day

Postcard feedback from the beinning of the day and then from the end of the day

From this we were able to see some shift in responses from the beginning to the end of the day.

‘Loss’ was prominently featured as a response in the morning ‘Dementia is…’ postcards as well as a number of biological terms used to describe dementia. On the afternoon postcards, these words were a much less prominent feature, with terms such as ‘misunderstood’, ‘support’ and ‘different’ coming to the fore.

In response to our second statement ‘Art can…’two words stood out during the morning responses with art frequently described ‘help[ing]’ a person to ‘express’ themselves. This was still a prevailing response in the afternoon responses, but ‘fun’ and ‘inspire’ had emerged as prominent responses.

We’d like to extend our thanks to several people and organisations for helping to make the day possible:  first to Connected Communities, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for their support enabling us to host the day; to Ruthin Craft Centre for hosting; Café R for delicious catering; Denbighshire County Council Arts Service for their collaboration in the programme, artists Siân Hughes and Tara Dean for sharing their practice and providing fun-filled workshops; our delegates for sharing their projects and ideas for working together for the future and last but most especially our VIP participants and relatives for generously coming to share their experiences with our delegates!

by Teri Howson

Added on: 17 August 2015

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